The results presented in this WSU publication serve as a general guide for evaluating the feasibility of producing Gala apples in Washington State as of 2014. This publication is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices, but it is helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings. Specific budget assumptions were adopted for this study, but these assumptions may not fit every situation since production costs and returns vary across orchard operations, depending on the following factors:
- Capital, labor, and natural resources
- Crop yields
- Type and size of machinery, irrigation, and frost control systems
- Input prices
- Cultural practices
- Apple prices
- Orchard size
- Management skills
Cost estimations in the enterprise budget also vary depending on its intended use. To avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions for any particular orchard, readers must closely examine the assumptions made in this guide, and then adjust the costs, returns, or both as appropriate for their own orchard operation.
Gala Production in Washington State
Bearing acres of Gala rootstock in Washington State have increased substantially, from 230 acres planted in 1986 to 32,780 total bearing acres in 2011. In 2011, acres planted to Gala represented 20% of Washington State’s total apple acreage. That acreage is distributed across the state as follows: 42% in the Yakima District, 32% in the Columbia Basin, 22% in the Wenatchee Valley, and 4% in other areas (USDA NASS 2011).
Gala is the second largest cultivar grown in Washington State following the traditional variety, Red Delicious. About 24.6 million 40-lb boxes of Gala were sold in the 2013–2014 marketing season. Also during this season, Gala accounted for 21.3% of total fresh apple shipments from Washington State (WSTFA 2015). Gala is also considered Washington State’s second primary export apple variety, accounting for approximately 19% of total Washington State apples exported from 2013 to 2014 (Washington Apple Commission 2014).
This publication is designed to enable growers to estimate: (1) the costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor required to establish and produce a Gala orchard and (2) the ranges of price and yield at which Gala production would be a profitable enterprise.
The primary use of this report is in identifying inputs, costs, and yields considered to be typical of well-managed Gala orchards. This publication does not necessarily represent any particular orchard operation and is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices. However, it describes current industry trends and, as such, can be helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings.
The data used in this study were gathered from a group of experienced Gala growers in Washington State. Their production practices and input requirements form the baseline assumptions that were used to develop the enterprise budget. Additionally, the data represent what these growers anticipate over an orchard’s life if no unforeseen failures occur. Given that many factors affect production costs, pack-out, and returns, individual growers can use the Excel Workbook provided to estimate their own costs and returns.
- The area of the total farm operation is 300 acres. Bearing acres include 225 acres of apples (75% of total area), 48 acres of sweet cherries (16%), and 27 acres of pears (9%).
- This budget is based on a 42-acre Gala block within a 300-acre diverse cultivar orchard. It is assumed that 2 acres of this block are not used for the direct production of tree fruit; rather, they are dedicated to roads, a pond, loading area, etc. Therefore, the total productive area for this block is 40 acres. Table 1 shows the assumed Gala block specifications.
- The value of bare agricultural land (including water rights) is $12,000 per acre with annual property taxes of $120 per acre.
- The irrigation system consists of overhead cooling and under-tree drip sprinklers, with two separate sub-main lines. Water is provided through a public irrigation district.